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Recently, while being served in a restaurant, I was intrigued by tiny pickled ears of corn, smaller than my little finger. Can you tell me where I could buy the seed?

We were similarly intrigued several months ago and wrote to the food processor who told us it was field corn which was harvested when the ears were very immature. We also learned that it is imported from Belgium, Taiwan, Mexico, and Thailand.

Field corn in the United States is normally grown for animals. Seed companies sell it to farmers in large quantities; hence, it is not available to home gardeners in small amounts.

We would like to have a blue border around one of our large flower beds this summer. The only short, blue flower with which I'm familiar is ageratum and that does not do well in our yard. Can you help? We'd like to sow seeds.

We like erect varieties of lobelia for edging flowers. There are two varieties with white ''eyes'' - Bright Eyes, which is violet blue, and Mrs. Clibran, a deep blue. Crystal Palace is solid, deep blue; Cambridge Blue is solid, light blue.

For plants to reach setting-out size, it takes about 10 weeks from seed sowing indoors. Seed should not be covered, but just sprinkled on top of a moist medium.

We subirrigate our seed boxes, using warm water when replenishing in the pan underneath. Germination temperature should be between 70-75 degrees F. (21-24 degrees C.). Lay a sheet of clear plastic wrap over the top of the seed box to keep the seeds moist.

I like to mix rotted compost in with sand and perlite to make a seed-starting mix. However, my last batch of seedlings all flopped over. I believe this is called ''damping off.'' Do you have some suggestion for sterilizing the compost?

A simple sterilizing method is to use a roasting pan and line it with aluminum foil. Add soil and then cover with another piece of foil, folding over the edges to make a seal.

Bake the soil for half an hour at 180 degrees F. This does away with harmful organisms without breaking down the structure of the soil itself.

A better term for this treatment is pasteurization.

Last year I grew some of the new picotee petunias along with some old favorites. The picotees were outstanding. In late summer I gathered some of the mature seeds and stored them in a glass container where it was cool. Now a gardener friend of mine tells me I won't get anything like the picotees since they are hybrids. Is this true?

As with all hybrid plants, picotee petunia seeds are produced by crossing the same two parents each time, making sure no pollen is present.

Since yours were ''open pollinated,'' there is no way of telling what colors you'll get.

This is the reason hybrid seeds are more expensive. A great deal of hand labor, time, and effort go into removing unwanted flower parts and transferring pollen to make sure there will be no variation in characteristics or quality.

To us, the picotees are worth it. Not only are they gorgeous, but they stand up better under adverse conditions and are extremely floriferous.

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